Private practice counselors are required by law to be licensed in the state they practice. Certification, which is optional and separate from licensing, is also available from independent professional certification organizations for counseling. The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification and the National Board for Certified Counselors are the two leading certification organizations for the counseling profession, according to the American Counseling Association.
Licensing requirements for counselors vary by state. However, each state requires applicants to earn an accredited degree, complete a specific number of post-graduate supervised hours and pass an exam to be fully licensed. Counseling degree programs are accredited by the Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Graduating from an accredited degree program does not guarantee licensure, but most state boards recognize the value of a CACREP degree. You can get more specific information about varying requirements by contacting the licensing board in your state.
Certified Rehabilitation Counselor
The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification awards the national Certified Rehabilitation Counselor designation to counselors with advanced education and work experience. You must have a master's degree in counseling or a related area and at least 600 hours of supervised work experience to be eligible for certification. A passing score on the CRC certification exam is also required. Certification must be renewed every five years. You can renew your certification through examination or by completing at least 100 hours of continuing education.
National Certified Counselor
The National Board for Certified Counselors awards the National Certified Counselor designation to experienced and educated counselors. You need a master’s degree or higher in counseling, 3,000 hours of post-graduate counseling experience (100 hours supervised) and 48 semester hours of graduate-level credit spread out among eight content areas, including human growth and development, social and cultural foundations, helping relationships, group work, career and lifestyle development, appraisal, research and program evaluation, professional orientation to counseling and field experience. A passing score on the National Counselor Exam is also required.
The NBCC also offers three specialty certifications for counselors who have already earned the NCC certification: the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor, the National Certified School Counselor and the Master Addictions Counselor. Eligibility requirements vary by certification, but graduate-level academic credit, 3,000 hours of clinical client contact and a passing score on an examination is required for each.